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Don’t yell at your fans

I have to be careful not to put too many CAPITAL letters in this post as I may be momentarily accused of yelling at my fans, but that's really not the kind of yelling I'm talking about. When I say "don't yell at your fans", I'm talking about a concept of involvement, of engagement, and of responsibility when it comes to any kind of fan base.

Rather than being on the path of having a label that gives me a handful of cash, tells me to go to the studio for several weeks months or a year, and then screams about what I've done to my potential fan base/market for a few weeks when the album comes out, I'm taking a slightly different route. And not only am I taking it now, but I have been taking it for some time, and have no intention of deviating from it in the foreseeable future. And the reason I'm writing about it is that I don't see any reason, no matter what kind of activity you're involved in, why you shouldn't take it too.

And I think here's where it gets good. For me, because I dig making albums regardless of whether they get heard or not, and for anyone who's reading this who's ever asked themselves the question of why, how, when, or where they should make music. I think it gets good because I feel the responsibility to make good art, compelling material, and engaging products is placed entirely on the artist/creator. There's no one to blame if it goes wrong, and only you to undertake the work. I think it makes you think a little harder and longer about where you direct your resources, and how much you "really want to make that art-noise/dubstep/classical/metal/country album" you've been dreaming about for a few years... So when I say don't yell at your fans, I mean it's far more productive to listen, be open minded, be aware of who you are and who listens to what you have to say/play, and take full responsibility for what you do, and at the same time involved them in the entire process of what you're producing, and not just the bit right at the end where you're desperate at that point for them to buy something. For me, at the end of the process of making an album, I give the option for anyone to take it for free, and of course to pay what they thinks it's worth, if anything. Not only does that take the pressure off the fan that a purchase is mandatory to check out the music, but it really helps me focus on making something that I am proud of and believe in. Daunting? maybe if you've never done it before. Rewarding? the entire way! when you're not making something that's success depends entirely on a small initial window of sales opportunities such as the release of an album, there are so many more rewards throughout the process. Less stress, more creative energy, and a deeper connection with people who might eventually listen to or pay for the music down the line. And it's this ability to think of success not in terms of revenue or profit, but in terms of trust. It's trust from a fan base or audience that allows me to move from one project to another and to take risks and be okay with the possibility of failure. With enough trust the audience will give you the benefit of the doubt at the end of the day, and will be okay with you making mistakes, learning from them, and moving forwards to create necessity in their life through what it is you do. Trust can't be bought, it has to be earned. And that's what makes it the most priceless commodity when it comes to freedom in creativity. I feel free with the trust I've earned so far, and I can't encourage you enough to go out there and gain it from your audience by being honest with what you do.

I'm in the final stages of production for my new album, with just one session in LA and one session in NYC left to complete it. It's going to be, just like all my albums to this point have been, completely different from anything I've ever done. Having committed to making at least one album a year for ten years starting last year, I initially thought it would be really difficult to come up with different material that consistently for that long. But the next three albums are already mapped out, and I might even have to double my output just to keep up with my crazy brain!

So don't yell at your fans, I'll try my best not to yell at you, and hopefully we'll all get along great for as long as you want to take this ride. I want to involve you as much as possible (as long as you want to hang of course) in the process of the new album, and all my albums for that matter. We'll be streaming the NYC session on February 15th where you'll get to see (overdubbing on the already recorded rhythm section of Peter Erskine and Alan Pasqua) Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, Bob Franceschini, Nir Felder and a bunch of other incredible musicians playing their hearts out on this new music. The album will be called Theatre By The Sea, and will be released on March 26th, and I'm going to try and bring you as much behind the scenes footage, and live mp3's from shows leading up to the release as I can over the next two and a half months.

As always, I thank you for hanging out, sticking around, and being the best audience to make mistakes for, learn from them, and get better at what I do.

Janek

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